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June 20: New York Times: "You may be hunched over your phone right now, worrying about reports that young people are growing horns on their skulls from spending too much time hunched over smartphones.... Recent articles by the BBC and the Washington Post have cited a 2018 study in the journal Scientific Reports saying that these bone growths have been turning up more often than expected in people aged 18 to 30. The study suggests that 'sustained aberrant postures associated with the emergence and extensive use of hand-held contemporary technologies, such as smartphones and tablets,' are to blame.... Experts give the report mixed reviews." ...

     ... Update. Uh, it seems one of the authors of the "scientific study" is a chiropractor called David Shahar, who used his own patients as subjects of the study AND, according to Quartz, is "the creator of Dr. Posture, an online store that advertises information and products related to forward head posture. One section tells users how to 'look and feel your best in three easy steps,' which include watching a video by Shahar, downloading at-home exercises, and sleeping with a Thoracic Pillow, which Shahar has trademarked and sold for $195." So hunch over, pick up your phones, & call your friends with the good news that the "study" is more likely a marketing scam than a warning about another dire effect of cellphone use. Thanks to safari for the link.

 

Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”

AP: "MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the writers of 'The Simpsons,' will be leaving newsstands after its August issue. Really. The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material. The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year."

Hill: "The Democrats beat the Republicans in a high-scoring 14-7 win Wednesday [June 26] night in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was the Democrats' 10th win in 11 years."

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

New York Times: Navy pilots flying along the East Coast of the U.S. spotted UFOs "almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015.... The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings 'a striking series of incidents.'” In one incident, the UFO flew between two Navy jets "flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach.... It looked to the pilot ... like a sphere encasing a cube."

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

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Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Wednesday
Dec222010

The Commentariat -- December 23

President Obama walks out of the Oval Office to board Marine One before departing for Hawaii. He will join his wife and daughters, who are already there, for the Christmas holiday. Getty image.Tim Egan tells a lovely Christmas story. in the tradition of O'Henry's "Gift of the Magi." Read it to the end. BTW, if you're looking for the O'Henry story, you can find it here.

Dana Milbank: during his press conference yesterday, "... when [President Obama] wasn't praising his accomplishments, he was praising himself.... Careful, Mr. President. What got Obama in trouble in the first place were the extraordinarily high expectations that the nation had for his administration - and that Obama's campaign had encouraged." CW: Milbank says it was "the humility forced on him by the Republicans' triumph in November" that accounted for Obama's success. I doubt that assessment. See other analysis of the lame duck Congress & Republican mutiny below. ...

... Nonetheless, Jay Newton-Small of Time is impressed as all get-out by President Obama. She notes that "The headlines this week read, "Obama Bested GOP in Extraordinary Lame Duck Session" (Washington Post), "No Congress Since 1960s Makes Most Laws for Americans as 111th" (Bloomberg), "With Major Bills Passed, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid Takes a Victory Lap (New York Times)." Small remembers this President Obama --

      -- who has r-evolved into the old Obama we fell in love with at the 2004 Democratic convention:

Dan Friedman of the National Journal: "All Democratic senators returning next year have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging him to consider action to change long-sacrosanct filibuster rules.... Adding to the momentum for change, say proponents, is a push by [Sen. Tom] Udall [D-NM] to seek a simple majority vote on changing Senate rules at the start of the session, rather than a two-thirds majority, that is gaining steam." ...

... Ezra Klein on the Democrats' letter to Reid: "They say elections have consequences. So too, it turns out, does obstruction.... [The Democrats'] Their unity stems from an unlikely source: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has mounted more filibusters in the past two years than occurred in the ’50s and ’60s combined." ...

... ... CW: I don't usually link to political analysis by Politico writers, but how can I resist this one by Glenn Thrush & Manu Raju titled "Mitch McConnell's Iron Grip Slips"? "... while nobody in the White House thinks McConnell has lost his grip, they see an opportunity to increase their leverage as McConnell finds himself squeezed between an incoming class of emboldened conservatives with a tea party tinge - and the eight to twelve Republicans who showed their independence on “don’t ask don’t tell” and START." ...

... Gail Collins celebrates the success of President Obama & the lame-duck Congress. ...

... What a Difference a Lame Duck Makes. Perry Bacon of the Washington Post: "... a six-week session that was expected to reflect a weakened president has turned into a surprising success." ...

... Ezra Klein on why the lame-duck Congress succeeded in passing so much legislation: "Sen. Lindsey Graham summed up the session by saying, 'When it's all going to be said and done, Harry Reid has eaten our lunch.' But it wasn't really Harry Reid who ate their lunch.... It was the Republicans.... The incumbent -- and the outgoing -- Republicans know that the fact that Republicans will have more power in 2011 doesn't necessarily mean that they'll use that power to pass sensible legislation. So those of them who wanted to pass sensible legislation decided to get it all done now...." ...

... Adam Serwer on why Republican obstructionism rendered Republicans their own worst enemy & gave a boost to President Obama, whom they hoped to destroy.

"Murkowski Goes Rogue."Meredith Shiner of Politico reports on Sen. Lisa Murkowski's new situation: "... she heads back to the Senate with a fresh six-year term without owing much to either her home state party establishment or her Washington leadership."

David Halbfinger of the New York Times examines the Senate career of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. ...

... Scott Keyes of Think Progress: Ground Zero workers visited Sen. Tom Coburn's office yesterday. Coburn was blocking the 9/11 responders' bill & eventually won deep cuts in its funding. Watch the video to the end:

Holiday Cheer! In this USA Today op-ed, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the TSA is doing a great job. ...

... BUT Tara Bahrampour of the Washington Post reports that "Muslims aren't alone in their antipathy toward the new security measures. Followers of other religions, including Sikhs and some Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians, also say the scanners and pat-downs make them uncomfortable or breach the tenets of their faiths."

Greg Gordon & Kevin Hall of McClatchy News: "The Federal Reserve Board ... missed a chance to prevent much of the financial chaos ravaging hundreds of small- and mid-sized banks. In early 2005..., the Fed rejected calls from one of the nation's top banking regulators, a professional accounting board and the Fed's own staff for curbs on the banks' use of special debt securities to raise capital that was allowing them to mushroom in size. Then-Chairman Alan Greenspan and the other six Fed governors voted unanimously to reaffirm a ... magic bullet [that] allowed the banks to count the securities as debt, even while counting the proceeds as reserves. Banks were then free to borrow and lend in amounts 10 times or more than the value of the securities being issued."

Nate Silver looks at the potential effects of the upcoming changes in the Electoral College, and concludes it won't have much of an effect on the of the 2012 presidential election.

Lanny Davis & Mike Espy -- Two Sleazy Democrats Get Sleazier. Helene Cooper & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "As the United States continued to push for President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast to step down, two former Clinton administration officials were trying to present Mr. Gbagbo, who has clung to power despite international condemnation, in a more sympathetic light. Michael Espy, the former agriculture secretary who is now a lobbyist, has appeared on Ivorian television on behalf of Mr. Gbagbo’s government, while Lanny J. Davis, former chief counsel to President Clinton who was hired by Mr. Gbagbo’s government this month, worked the phones and described himself as a liaison of sorts to the tainted regime." ...

... Justin Elliott of Salon has more here and here.

Wednesday
Dec222010

President Obama holds a press conference Wednesday afternoon:

     ... New York Times: "President Obama on Wednesday declared the lame-duck session of Congress to be the 'most productive post-election period that we have had in decades' and promised to continue seeking common ground next year." Washington Post story here.

President Obama signs the repeal of DADT; Vice President Biden speaks briefly:

Tuesday
Dec212010

The Commentariat -- December 22

** Historian Rick Perlstein, in a Salon essay, tells how race relations really played out in Haley Barbour's Yazoo City, Mississippi. This is a chilling must-read for anyone who thinks, as Barbour claims, that maybe it wasn't all that bad.

Glenn Greenwald: the New York Times again published classified secrets on their front page yesterday. If Julian Assange & Bradley Manning are going to be prosecuted for some unspecified crimes, then Times personnel & their high-level sources should be prosecuted, too.

Here's the new 2010 Census map that shows gains & losses of Congressional seats. For more detail, click on the map to go to the interactive New York Times map.Sabrina Tavernise & Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "The Census Bureau rearranged the country’s political map on Tuesday, giving more Congressional seats to the South and the West at the expense of the Northeast and the Midwest — changes that will have far-reaching implications for elections over the next decade." ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The conventional political wisdom is that the results of the 2010 census, announced Tuesday, are a big win for Republicans, who are largely dominant in the states where population increased. But Democratic officials in Washington are cautiously optimistic that the population shifts will still give them the opportunity to win new seats in Congress, especially in places where minority populations have exploded." CW: I agree with Shear on this. The more libruls who move to traditionally Republican states, the better the chance to dilute the conservative pools. ...

... Ezra Klein: "A lot of these changes are driven by Hispanic immigrants." This isn't going to help Republicans in the long run, but the redistricting would still hurt Obama in 2010. "If he gets 46 percent of the vote in Texas rather than 43 percent, he still gets exactly none of Texas's electoral votes. In total, this census takes six electoral votes from Barack Obama's 2008 haul." ...

... Shannon Travis of CNN: in the new Census numbers, experts see a short-term downside & long-term upside for Hispanics.

Here's some of Sen. Arlen Specter's spectacular swan song. He lays into both the Supreme Court & right-wing extremists:

     ... The CNN print story is here.

Legislating "Under the Cover of Christmas." Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy: despite a likelihood that the Senate will ratify the New START Treaty, Republican Senators continue to rail against the treaty & turncoat Republicans who voted in favor of world peace at Christmas-time. ...

... "Playing the Christmas Card." Dana Milbank: "Eight founding fathers of the [new Petulant Party] took the stage Tuesday morning in the Senate TV studio to provide an update on their latest cause: The defeat of the nuclear arms treaty with Russia.... They defied the recommendation of Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (a Bush administration holdover) in their unsuccessful defense on Saturday of the 'don't ask, don't tell' ban on openly gay service members. And ... the Petulants' efforts to prevent the Sept. 11 bill from coming to the floor earned labels such as 'disgrace' and 'national shame' from the usually friendly hosts at Fox News."

Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces. I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system.
-- Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education ...

... Education Fail. AP: "Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday. The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small." Here's a pdf of the overview report by the Education Trust.

Rachel Maddow takes down Sen. Tom Coburn, catching him in a huge lie about the "reason" for his opposition to the 9/11 responders bill:

... Michael Shear: "... Republican lawmakers find themselves the target of ire and scorn from the most unlikely of adversaries: the firefighters and police officers who rushed into the burning twin towers on Sept. 11 nearly a decade ago and worked at the site for months afterward. That predicament crystallized Tuesday when Rudy Giuliani ... condemned his fellow Republicans as being on the wrong side of 'morality' and 'obligation' for failing to support legislation to provide medical benefits for the first responders." Includes video. ...

... Update. Alex Pareene of Salon: "Tom Coburn is finally dropping his threat to single-handedly obstruct the 9/11 first responders healthcare bill in the Senate ... because he won: The bill, which already went from $7.4 to $6.2 billion in benefits and compensation, is now down to $1.5 for benefits and $2.7 for compensation.... Coburn's ... real objection was that rich people were going to have to pay for non-rich people to have their illnesses treated."

Erika Bolstad of the Anchorage Daily News: "As Congress brings to a close its lame-duck session, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has emerged from her historic write-in campaign as a key swing vote in the Senate on issues backed by the Obama administration."

David Catanese of Politico: "After embracing him in his 2006 upset win over GOP Sen. Conrad Burns, progressives turned on Montana Sen. Jon Tester in response to his vote against the DREAM Act on Saturday, complicating his prospects for reelection next year."

CW: just in case you think the conservatives on the Supreme Court are not "activist judges," Prof. Pauline Maier in a New York Times op-ed explains the intent of the Second Amendment:  James Madison, the author of the Second Amendment, wrote it & other amendments "to 'parry' the call for a second federal convention.... One of his proposed amendments promised that the people would never be subject to federal military rule because their 'right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well-armed, and well-regulated militia being the best security of a free country.'” In fact, Maier says, the militias are now defunct, but "one thing is clear: to justify such rulings [as District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago] by citing Madison and the other founders and framers would not honor their 'original intent.' It would be an abuse of history."

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The CIA has launched a task force to assess the impact of the exposure of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables and military files by WikiLeaks. Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it's mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F."

David Sanger of the New York Times: "... while [President] Obama is savoring another major victory..., his own aides acknowledge that the lesson of the battle over the [New START] treaty is that the political divide on national security is widening. The next steps on Mr. Obama’s nuclear agenda now appear harder than ever."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "President Obama’s advisers have been drafting an executive order that would set up a system for periodically reviewing the cases of Guantánamo prisoners whom courts have approved for detention without trial, officials said.... In broad strokes, it would establish something like a parole board to evaluate whether each detainee poses a continued threat, or whether he can be safely transferred to another country."

Bankers as Common Thieves. Andrew Martin of the New York Times: "In an era when millions of homes have received foreclosure notices nationwide, lawsuits detailing bank break-ins ... keep surfacing. And in the wake of the scandal involving shoddy, sometimes illegal paperwork that has buffeted the nation’s biggest banks in recent months, critics say these situations reinforce their claims that the foreclosure process is fundamentally flawed."